A group of soldiers from the 3rd Battalion, 161st Infantry Regiment, Bear and Cobra companies, recently spent time learning how to survive time in a jungle as part of exercise Cobra Gold 2023.
“The soldiers were partnered with a Royal Thai Army platoon throughout the two-week exercise. One week was dedicated to urban training and one to jungle training,” said Capt. Ken Pfeifle, commander for Bear Company, 3rd Battalion, 161st Infantry Regiment. “Although each day had its individual training objectives, the ‘big picture goal’ was to build interoperability with the Royal Thai Army and solidify our partnership, building the lasting bonds of friendship.”
The two exercise blocks ran concurrently with soldiers from each company taking part in jungle training and urban training. During the urban block, Guard members conducted military operations in urban terrain operations, short-range marksmanship, counter-improvised explosive device training, room clearing and took part in a Thai-led combat field exercise. Jungle training consisted of a squad tactical exercise, knocking out a bunker, clearing a wire obstacle, and tactical combat casualty care, weapons knowledge exchange, a known-distance range, and the bi-lateral squad live-fire exercise. One Royal Thai Army team and one U.S. Army team executed the live-fire exercise with alternating squad leaders, focusing on the basics of fire and maneuver.
“We were uniquely qualified for this, thanks to our recent mobilization to Poland as part of the NATO Enhanced Forward Presence mission,” said Pfeifle. “This training helped us emphasize communication techniques for lift and shift fire, controlling rates of fire and marksmanship. It was the one event that the Royal Thai Army and U.S. soldiers truly worked as one element, built cohesion and fostered trust.”
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The jungle survival class served as the highlight for many soldiers, which was hosted by the Royal Thai Army. This day of training taught soldiers how to find food and water in the jungle, how to make rope with vegetation, how to start a fire, how to filter water, and how to deal with snakes in the wild.
“Some of the soldiers were squeamish and some were stoic, but all were mesmerized by the demonstration,” said Pfeifle. “It was certainly a highlight no one will forget.”
Throughout the two-week exercise, Guard members not only shared their expertise and knowledge with their Royal Thai Army counterparts, but also with members of the active Army who also participated in Cobra Gold 23.
“Throughout the exercise we consistently impressed our active-duty higher headquarters with our professionalism, tactical and technical expertise and the diversity of capabilities we bring to the table,” said Pfeifle. “None more notable than when their leadership visited the shoot-house during the second week on training.”
During Bear Company’s first day at the shoot-house facility, the lights were not working and had not worked the week prior. SGT. Brandon Myer, an electrician by trade, jumped into action and had the lights on within 10 minutes.
“On top of fixing the lights in the shoot-house, the VIPs in attendance were blown away with our work with the Royal Thai Army,” said Pfeifle. “Later that evening, they gushed with admiration over our capability and professionalism.”
While receiving praise from their active and multi-national partners is nice for his soldiers, Pfeifle believes that overall success is really measured in the relationships his team built.
“This mission [of Cobra Gold] was successful because we invested in building friendships at the individual and unit level to bolster our partnership with the Royal Thai Army,” said Pfeifle. “It is simple things like trading patches and sharing knowledge, but it makes a difference, and makes each of us stronger.”